Reviews of Ongava Tented Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Fantastic wildlife experience!
We spent three nights at Ongava Tented Camp and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The private reserve offers excellent wildlife viewing - especially when compared to Etosha, which is right next door but has a completely different feel. Where Etosha is commercial and crowded, Ongava Reserve is secluded and private. It most often felt like we were the only ones in the park. We enjoyed amazing wildlife sightings, including lions, elephants, and both white and black rhinos.
The Tented Camp has a waterhole just beyond the dining tent/deck which offers an almost unending stream of wildlife just a few feet from where you're sitting. The tents are not five-star villas but they are roomy and comfortable, more than adequate for a tented camp. They are, in my opinion, the perfect balance of rustic and luxury.
Both the food and the service at Ongava were very good. The managers were present, personable, and attentive. The wait staff were always on the ball - especially Sydney, whose eagle eye and attention to my food allergy kept me safe.
Some safari camps provide separate, private dining tables and some prefer the communal style of dining. By virtue of guests' different schedules and Ongava's flexibility with meal times, they struck a nice balance between social mingling and each party's privacy. We met other guests and enjoyed our time with them but never felt forced to interact.
Ongava also offers a lodge but we stopped there for tea one afternoon and concluded that we much prefer the smaller, more intimate feel of the Tented Camp. Whether you stay at the Lodge or the Tented Camp, both offer the ability to do safari drives in Etosha or within the private reserve and are, therefore, excellent options while in this area.
A Quality Camp with Good Wildlife
Ongava Tented Camp is a very good quality Wilderness Safari camp. It has comfortable tents with all facilities and most are really well placed to sit and observe the wildlife attracted to the water hole located immediately beside the central guest area, bar and lounge. The Camp is not fenced and wildlife can (and does) wander in, near and through the camp area and night time walking between tents is only in the company of an armed guide - not that anyone wants any thing shot ........ but you get the idea. During my time there a couple of lioness came and drank at the waterhole (remember there is no fence) and an angry baboon was right inn camp and "chased" away by enthusiastic staff.
There is a single communal dining table (which I normally don't favour), but this one works well with the support of good staff who make the dining experience pleasant without the "singing/dancing" stuff of Damaraland Camp. The dining area is open on both sides and is good viewing for the water hole. The buffett breakfast was good, there were no starlings in the cereal, and the main meals were tasty, varied and good quality.
The game drives were actually more rewarding than first impressions and there was quite a lot to see, albeit there was a fair bit of travelling between sightings/locations. But the Reserve is well worth exploring and based on my experience was much more rewarding that traversing the wind, dust and crowds of the actual Etosha National Park. The latter was, frankly, disappointing and I only went into the Park for the one "unrewarding" explore.
But Ongava produced some excellent close ups of a pride of lions with an impressive large male (although Guide Zamu probably was a bit over enthusiastic about getting us close for a shot and disturbed the pride), great close up of a mum and junior white rhino, some excellent giraffe and elephant sightings at a water hole and a close up of black rhino from a hide. And in between there were other useful sightings which completed the experience.
It is a nice camp, well run with lots to see and well worth spending a few days. Based on my experience I would not actually go into Etosha itself unless the winds were "down" but also you can really only view from the roads so are somewhat restricted to sightings around water holes - which naturally attract all sorts of vehicles and crowds.
Ongava Tented Camp Review
Good camp with great sightings! We were really happy with our game drives inside the reserve.
However, we only took one trip to the Etosha Pan, which was not good! Unfortunately, the wind that day was very strong, almost to sandstorm level. This, obviously did not help our experience. The worst aspect, however, was the number of vehicles on the pan at the same time, including some very large 'coaches', where the drivers had no respect for other people, and did not even turn off their very noisy diesel engines.
The consequence being that filming contained the engine noise! After this, we requested to remain on the reserve, which was perfect every time!!
Lovely camp with active waterhole
Ongava Tented Camp is a lovely well run camp. Rooms are very nice. All guests eat together at one large table and this was very enjoyable with some good conversations.
There is a very active water hole by the dining area. We saw kudu, elephant, impala, waterbuck (not native to the area but had been introduced at one time and were thriving), jackals, warthogs, a black rhino and even a caracal. There are many rock hyrax and hornbills around the grounds.
Food and service were excellent. The game drives and walks were very good and our guide, Bono, was excellent. We had an outstanding rhino walk.
Beautiful camp. Very well managed.
Wonderful deck overlooking waterhole & animals. Amazing views of animals in proximity to the camps.
Great guide & outings into Etosha National Park.
Pleasant dinners with others, great meal accommodations (veggie) & especially great manager (Chris).
Great Safari at Ongava
Ongava was terrific. The waterhole was quite prolific. Without leaving camp we saw impala, kudu, giraffe, zebra, an elephant take a bath, and, one night, lions.
On the game drives on the reserve, we saw white rhino and lions, in addition to the usual suspects. Really liked that we were allowed out of the jeep to view the rhinos. Our guide was Bono, and he was very good. He provided a great introduction to Etosha and helped us plan our crossing after we left.
The camp generally was slightly more rustic than some of the other places we stayed, which I enjoyed: it seemed a little "wilder". That said it was very comfortable.
This camp was more social than others. Management socialized with guest and guests were encouraged to mingle. It made a nice change.
Well-placed watering hole at the camp
Ongava Tented Camp is a comfortable tented camp, but does not have air-conditioning.
What is so great about this camp is the watering hole, which attracts elephants and antelopes by day, and big cats and rhinos by night. Our guide - Bono - deserves special mention for his persistence (if not his knowledge). In spite of rainy season, we found elephants, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, antelopes, warthogs, jackals and foxes because he drove us to lesser traversed corners of Ongava reserve and Etosha. We never tired of going out on safari drives even though we initially had reservations about so many drives.
We would have liked to know upfront the list of activities available at Ongava. Bono did mention that we could do bush walks but only on our last day when we were already on a safari drive, though he did say that bush walks were not recommended during the rainy season. Still, it would have been nice to know our options first.
The food at Ongava was quite tasty, but the portions were smaller than at Kulala or Doro !Nawas. They also served a very rich, creamy and delicious pasta dish during lunch - which was quite hard to eat because it was so hot! We also noticed that Ongava was less committed to Wilderness Safari's eco-friendly ethos. They did not encourage us to use our water bottles, and freely gave us plastic bottles to drink from all the time.
Overall, the staff were friendly throughout our stay at Ongava. We were the only guests during our last two nights because the camp was about to undergo renovations. However, when we checked out and went to thank them - our departure was quite unceremonious and brusque, probably all the more jarring because the staff had made such a big deal of us when we arrived and throughout our stay. We put it down to the renovation works, but unfortunately it was the last experience/memory we had at Ongava.
We did not experience this at Kulala Desert Lodge or Doro !Nawas, where the staff (managers, servers, and guides alike) were really friendly, sincere and warm. Overall, we would probably not return back to Ongava Tented Camp.
We had really high hopes for this place but overall were quite disappointed. The camp is dated but more importantly the staff was totally uninterested. (with 1-2 notable exceptions) Also the game viewing felt more like rushing towards sighting that others had radioed in and we often were with +3 cars watching the same animals.
We did enjoy seeing rhinos up close on foot and the waterhole in front of the lodge is really nice and attracts a lot of animals.
Ongava lodge review
We stayed at Ongava lodge (not the tented camp on our vouchers). this was excellent and as it was very hot there the Airconditioned lodge stone buildings were most welcome.
The camp waterholes as a major feature as it was visible from the dining area and many animals used it , including 16 lions one night as well as 5 black rhino. Etoshe was an interesting experience with many more people using the roads. The large waterholes were a major attraction with a huge number of animals.
The camp is changing from Wilderness and retained some, but not all, of the style. Our preference is for a smaller, more personal camp.
Ongava Tented Camp review
On arrival,we were somewhat dismayed that we had to share a vehicle with other people as being birders and a photographer we are not everybody's cup of tea. The couple we shared with were first timers but luckily for us, they enjoyed our way of doing things and became converted birdwatchers!
We were very impressed with the way Chrisma, a manager handled the situation as for the last three days she gave us the vehicle to ourselves with the same guide, Rio, who was excellent. He had very good eyes and we felt that we were all part of the same team, enjoying it together.
Our only criticism was that we were given a room near to the car park. As we were staying for four nights, unlike most people, we felt that we should have been put nearer to the mess tent and the waterhole. However, again Chrisma dealt with this quickly and after two nights we were put into another room.